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Why tonight's vice presidential debate will be so influential in American history

The Pence-Harris face off will be unlike anything we've ever witnessed in the history of vice presidential debates

Why tonight's vice presidential debate will be so influential in American history

Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah

Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

With just a couple of hours left before showtime, tonight's debate will be like no other.

The debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris will be one of the most prominent fixtures of American history since vice-presidential debates began around 40 years ago.

Although vice presidential debates aren't as popular as the duals that the world is subjected to from presidential debates, the 2020 race in itself and the highly unique moments from the administration make this debate worthy of coverage and our undivided attention.


By coping with a virus that has claimed the lives of over 211,000 Americans, we must not forget that the vice president directly correlates to the presidency. With many documented experiences of the long-term effects of Covid-19 from patients referred to as "long-haulers," incapacitation within the presidency is being brought to light.

Moreover, even though vice-presidential debates can be boring in the sense that most of the focus is on how each vice presidential candidate would help the president make America a better place if elected and their stances on policies if they move forward. The candidates must also keep in the back of their minds that they could become president at any moment.

However, within the 2020 race, we are presented with two of the oldest presidential nominees within American history. One is dealing with the diagnosis of Covid-19 even though he cavalierly still downplays the severity— President Donald Trump— and former Vice President Joe Biden's health complications in the 1980s.

Regardless of Trump being re-elected or Biden winning the overall vote next month, they will be sworn in amid a particularly dangerous pandemic for older demographics.

Understanding this, the vice presidential debate will occur in a large hall in the University of Utah, and the candidates will now have a 12-foot distance between them, which is more than normal. There will also be no tangible means of communication, such as a side by side photo and handshake before and after the debate.

Susan Page, debate moderator and Washington Bureau Chief at USA Today, will most likely get the debate going with health questions, the 25th Amendment, and succession, to name a few. Mentioning a dead president or incapacitated one is a morbid one, but Mr Trump and Mr Biden's age and health history make it necessary to address.

During the election year, vice-presidential candidates often serve as presidential nominees' protectors, so there will be criticism amongst the candidates such as Mr Pence's initial objection to the use of a plexiglass barrier as well as his stance on the virus as the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

It's critically important for both candidates to avoid direct political strife and focus on the state of the nation during a pandemic with a president that is ill.

The vice president's personality, especially in Covid-19 conferences, is calm and collected, which is ideal in a debate. Despite this, his rhetoric and presence at times are that of a minion, someone who obliges and defends someone even if they have a menacing attitude like the president.

Mr Pence must not only be persuasive in portraying the ability to take over for the president if needed, but he also must show strength and courage by making sound decisions despite the president's complex that team members shouldn't outshine him.

Ms Harris has not only made American history as the first woman of color to be nominated for office by a major political party, but she has proven that she is a quick-witted and effective debater during the primaries. Her prosecutorial background as she addresses candidates( including Biden) illuminates her strength within politics.

Even though this is great, she needs to focus on what she deeply cares about concerning the country to appeal to human interests.

Of course, a part of the debate will highlight how she would help Mr Biden if he becomes president. However, the debate must also show that she can stand on her own in the absence of Mr Biden. America loves a good fight, as it's what the country has been built on, so it's critically important for a female in politics to showcase strength and compassion for people in a world full of gender biases.

In more ways than not, Mr Pence and Ms Harris are both able to do what the president could not do in last week's debate - be an adult that shows some respect for others. They also can both appeal to the importance of family and what it means to be the 'rock' that their respective families and nation need. Mr Pence shows excitement when talking about his daughter, and Ms Harris embraces being called 'Mamala' by her step-kids.

Overall, the opportunity for Mr Pence and Ms Harris to shed light on things that the president and former vice president didn't do in their quite disastrous presentation of a debate last week is imperative: be the voice of optimism that the United States is longing for.

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